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8:29 PM Sat, Nov. 17th

Powers: Less food, more exercise is good advice for our pets, too

Bucky Wood shows off a well-shaped body. (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

Bucky Wood shows off a well-shaped body. (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

The obesity rate among children, particularly those younger than 5, is increasing. That is rather startling. Just how can that be? Could they be eating junk food?

But I am supposed to be writing a pet column.

The obesity rate among our pets is increasing also. In a recent discussion with my veterinarian — asking if she is seeing more obese dogs and cats, she answered — yes, but she added that the pet owners are often heavier also.

I am afraid that I am rather bold in speaking out when I see a pet that is overweight. It is not that I want to be rude. I am very concerned. Obesity in our pets is as dangerous as it is for us. Many health issues spring from problems of obesity. But when I mention, as gently as possible, that a person’s pet is overweight, their answers are frequently predictable. They say it is the long hair — that is the primary response. Or they will say they have not changed the amount that they feed. Or they tell me that on a recent visit to their vet they were told the weight was fine. If we are honest with ourselves, we know when we are overweight, and we should be able to see when our pet is overweight also.

We are aware that if we are overweight, we need to cut back on the amount that we eat — and we need to get out and move around a bit more. That is true for our dogs as well.

Many neighborhoods in the area have restrictions regarding fencing. Lots of people walk their dogs, which is wonderful. But what about those that do not get the exercise that they need. Do they spend their whole lives inside or only allowed in a small fenced area behind the house? That is not a healthy lifestyle.

Walking is a great healthy start for all of us. It is one of the wonderful advantages of having a dog, particularly one who reminds us when it is time for those twice daily walks. But with an overweight dog, a couple of daily walks is just the beginning.

The simple fact is — if our dog is overweight, he is eating too much. We need to cut back on the amount that we feed but also the quantity and quality of treats. There are low calorie treats and dogs generally love carrots.

If a dog is reasonably active, a low calorie diet would not be recommended unless he is extremely obese. A high quality, nutritionally balanced dog food is the best, but the quantity is key. Cut back on the quantity slowly. You do not want him feeing deprived. If you are feeding one cup twice a day, gradually cut it back to three quarters of a cup.

One very important issue here is — always use a measuring cup. That is the only way to be sure of the quantity you are feeding and it is essential when you are trying to cut back.

A dog or cat needs to have a waistline, just like us. Stand over your pet and you should be able to see the wider rib cage and the tapering behind that. You want to be able to feel the ribs, the backbone and the hips but you do not necessarily want to see them.

Think about the deer that are prevalent in the area. Their athletic bodies can leap over a boulder effortlessly. They are certainly examples to all of us — they manage their weight perfectly.

Incidentally, if you are driving and pass a dog walker, please slow down. Please!!

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at cpowerspak@gmail.com.